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United States Design Report 2019-2021

The United States’ fourth national action plan contains commitments of broad interest to the American public. However, almost half of the commitments are recycled from pre-existing, ongoing government programs and, as written, do not signal significant changes in government practice. The U.S. should reengage and deepen trust with stakeholders by designing and implementing a clear, well-publicized, and well-documented co-creation process where civil society has greater buy-in. Future commitments should respond to national priorities with significant, measurable, and specific milestones.

Table 1. At a glance

Participating since: 2011

Action plan under review: fourth

Report type: design

Number of commitments: 8

Action plan development

Is there a multistakeholder forum: yes

Level of public influence:  consult

Acted contrary to OGP process: yes

Action plan design

Commitments relevant to OGP values: 7
(87.5%)

Transformative commitments: 1 (12.5%)

Potentially starred commitments: 1 (12.5%)

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. The United States joined OGP in 2011. Since, the United States has implemented three action plans. This report evaluates the design of the United States’ fourth action plan.

General overview of action plan

The United States’ fourth national action plan (NAP4) was published during heightened tension between civil society and the federal government due to the former’s concerns of diminishing open government in the U.S. This tension was pervasive during the NAP4 co-creation process and in the run-up to the action plan’s release, which was itself delayed for two years. In light of this, some civil society stakeholders who participated in prior co-creation processes declined to do so for NAP4. Others who did participate expressed concerns surrounding limited opportunities for engagement throughout the co-creation process, as all government-led, in-person engagement efforts were held entirely in Washington, DC. Despite these concerns, the action plan itself, which includes eight commitments, draws substantially from civil society input solicited during the co-creation process: half of all commitments directly align with comments submitted by stakeholders.

While the action plan has no overarching theme, several commitments address timely issues of broad concern for the American public, including leveraging data to reduce the ongoing opioid crisis and improving transparency within the intelligence community. With respect to the OGP values, the majority of commitments focus primarily on improving public access to information, ranging from broadening access to federally-funded research to streamlining procedures and information availability for individuals seeking federal assistance. By contrast, the action plan places limited emphasis on civic participation and public accountability, echoing civil society concerns during the co-creation process. While the action plan’s release is laudable given the extensive delays during its development, it is comprised primarily of commitments with limited potential impact—many of which derive directly from open government initiatives that were already underway prior to the action plan’s release—and does not address the majority of recommendations proposed by the IRM during the previous action plan cycle.

Table 2. Noteworthy commitments

Commitment description Moving forward Status at the end of implementation cycle
Commitment 2: Ensure Accountability for Grants Complete the positioning of the System for Award Managements (SAM) as the central repository for government-wide certifications and representations required of federal grant recipients by the end of the action plan implementation period. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

 

Recommendations

The IRM recommendations aim to inform the development of the next action plan and guide implementation of the current action plan. Please refer to Section V: General Recommendations for more details on each of the below recommendations.

Table 3. Five KEY IRM recommendations

Adhere to the regular OGP action plan co-creation and reporting cycle via the clear designation of a responsible government agency early in the creation process.
Engage more fully and with a broader range of key stakeholders during the co-creation process, and systematically respond to all proposed commitments and feedback on draft commitments.
Design an action plan that makes a more concerted attempt to go beyond existing efforts, as opposed to including a large number of commitments that reflect ongoing efforts.
Design more ambitious commitments by improving commitment specificity (clearly identifying the public problem the commitment will address and the proposed solution). Consider a logic model and milestones that lead to the desired results.
Expand the thematic scope of future action plans to include strategic commitments related to pressing public issues.

 

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